Easter birding around Dubbo

Subject: Easter birding around Dubbo
Date: Tue, 22 Apr 2003 14:33:05 +1000
Over Easter I showed a small Follow That Bird (ASIT) group the joys of 
birding around the Dubbo area.

A rather late arrival by the group in Dubbo on Friday meant that the 
options that afternoon were somewhat limited.  However, a quick run out of 
town to near where the Talbragar meets the Macquarie River produced the 
first bird of the Dubbo tour - a White-plumed Honeyeater - very soon 
followed by the main purpose of stopping at this location - Plum-headed 
Finch.  These birds were very cooperative giving excellent close views as 
they fed on fallen grass seeds, occasionally pulling standing grass down 
and every now and again flying up onto exposed dead shrubs before dropping 
to the ground to feed again - these birds were hungry.  Further up the 
Macquarie at Terramungamine were the usual riparian suspects - plenty of 
parrots and cockatoos including Little Corella and Cockatiel.  The 
Budgerigars that had been there for much of the last twelve months weren't 

The Saturday morning was a very early start with an early morning zoo walk 
and breakfast.  Along with Rhino, Giraffe and Siamang Ape were plenty of 
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, Striped Honeyeater, White-browed Babblers and 
fleeting views of Grey-crowned Babbler.  Several of us had a quick look at 
White-browed Swallows overhead while a pair of Speckled Warblers were very 
cooperative.  We had lunch at my place where we watched the resident 
Grey-crowned Babblers busy working their way through the leaf litter, the 
Blue-faced Honeyeaters busy probing the bark of the White Box trees while 
the Apostlebirds decided they weren't going to be outdone and played in 
the birdbath while we sat on the verandah eating lunch.  A short stroll 
around the property was a bit quiet bird wise but Red-browed Finches and 
Diamond Firetail were located along with Brown Tree-creeper, Jacky Winter, 
Peaceful Dove and Black-chinned Honeyeater.

The late afternoon was spent back at the zoo in the "Sanctuary", an 
off-limits section behind the zoo.  A quick inspection of one of the 
Malleefowl breeding pens where we immediately attracted the attention of a 
flock of Apostlebirds which sat only a metre above our heads as we talked, 
the birds seemingly taking great interest in what was said.  The next stop 
was for a pair of Red-capped Robins, the first of many that afternoon, 
other birds seen were White-eared Honeyeater, Inland Thornbill and 
Buff-rumped Thornbill.  Heading around to the cleared area we saw a number 
of the re-introduced Bridled Nail-tailed Wallabies along with a Southern 
Hairy-nosed Wombat.  A Little Eagle was also taking a great interest in 
the wallabies. Over a largish dam were at least five White-backed Swallows 
and, unlike those seen earlier in the day, these were very observable 
coming down to eye level on a number of occasions.

Sunday morning started with a walk along the Macquarie River at Dubbo. 
Great views of a pair of Collared Sparrowhawk in one of the huge old River 
Red Gums before they took off to worry the Starlings and Red-rumped 
Parrots.  We later saw one of the Sparrowhawks on an upper limb of a Red 
Gum before it was unceremoniously bowled off it's branch by a 
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo.  Walking back to the motel five Superb Parrots 
flew from behind us, over our shoulders and disappeared flying west. After 
breakfast we headed out to Geurie, 30km east of Dubbo, to a remnant White 
Box woodland.  Plenty of Eastern Yellow Robins, Brown Tree-creepers and 
Dusky Woodswallows.  Other birds seen were Fantailed Cuckoo, Peaceful Dove 
and Common Bronzewing as well as Crested Shrike-tit, Golden Whistler, 
Rufous Whistler and, undoubtedly the highlight of this stop, a male 
Gilberts Whistler.  This bird was a real extrovert singing powerfully in 
full view right in front of everyone.  Morning tea at the nearby Geurie 
cemetery was followed by flocks of birds foraging in an adjacent paddock - 
more Red-capped Robins (trying very hard to behave like Flame Robins), 
Yellow-rumped Thornbills, some very attractive and obliging Diamond 
Firetails and the best views of three Black-chinned Honeyeaters one would 
every want.  These birds were feeding on lerp among foliage almost at 
eye-level, a great opportunity for the less experienced birdwatchers to 
note all the features of these great birds.

Lunch was at Mendooran, a fair hike from Geurie to the north of Goonoo 
State Forest, on the banks of the Castlereagh River.  King Parrots, 
Western Gerygone and Restless Flycatchers were new birds for the group 
here.  After lunch we visited Goonoo State Forest and a Malleefowl mound. 
No sign of the birds but there had been recent activity at the mound - 
probably stimulated by good rain a week before.  Due to the drought 
conditions the Malleefowl didn't breed last year.  The drought had also 
had a severe impact generally on the birds in Goonoo, and elsewhere around 
Dubbo, and birding in the forest is hard work at the moment. Nevertheless, 
White-throated Tree-creepers, Sittella and Australian Ringneck were added 
to the list.  The REAL reason for visiting Goonoo however was an afternoon 
dam watch and the promise of Glossy Black Cockatoos.  I was a little 
worried about the rain a week before and there as plenty of water lying 
around the forest.  This generally means the birds drink at the pools and 
don't come into the dams.  Sure enough when we arrived at the dam at 5PM 
there wasn't a cockie in sight!  Getting out of the van however we heard 
Glossies coming in from the east.  Four birds took up their position in 
the adjacent trees and with tea or coffee in hand the group took up 
positions to watch these magnificent birds.  After 15 minutes or so these 
four birds dropped to the water's edge and drank. Back up into the trees 
one of the males started displaying to the female and after a few minutes 
of preliminaries proceeded to mate.  Like the Malleefowl, the drought had 
meant that there was little breeding by the Glossies last year.  Perhaps 
last weeks rain was enough to get them interested.  Just as the sun was 
getting very low and we had decided that four Glossies was better than a 
slap on the belly with a wet fish we heard more coming in from the east. 
The was the beginning of the real show.  The cockies continued coming in 
in pairs and small groups until we had 26 cockatoos at the dam.  They sat 
there for ages before a pair decided swoop a bit lower, that was all it 
took for the others to join them and eventually drop to the dam wall and 
walk down to the waters edge to drink.  A magnificent experience for all 
that were there to see it and a great way to cap off a great day's 
birding.  The poor 2002 breeding season was reflected by only one 
youngster whingeing incessantly.

The Monday morning started with another river walk.  Great views of 
Red-browed Finches on the edge of the walking track and Yellow-throated 
Miners foraging in the River Oak.  More Cockatiel flew over.  After 
breakfast the group packed their bags for the return to Sydney.  However, 
I was to stay with them until after morning tea at Burrendong Arboretum 
south-east of Wellington.  Always a great spot for birds they had 
excellent views of a range of birds including Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters 
and Fan-tailed Cuckoo. 

At this stage I haven't heard what the group saw after they left me at 
Burrendong but at the time when we parted company we had notched up 
something like 120 species.  Not a huge tally but this was not a group of 
twitchers, probably more interested in spending time watching Red-rumped 
Parrots feeding than trying to find new birds.


David Geering

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